laugh-new-yellow-lineLaughing with others—particularly people you don’t know very well—has an interesting effect. It connects us, gives us something in common, and opens us up to something new and unexpected. Our brains relax, and we are more open to learn.

Laughter is an expression of joy or merriment. I use it here because it captures a positive emotion and leads us to think about emotions in general. When asked for adjectives that described their emotional state, recent workshop participants said: scared, overwhelmed, nervous, stressed, busy, and hopeful. That’s one positive emotion among many negative. At the same time, common adjectives used in articles about effective leaders are these: resilient, agile, curious, perseverant, and confident. Nearly opposite. The gap between the actual emotions our students bring to class and the emotions we wish for them can be vast, and this emotional distance can get in the way of learning

Laugh here reminds us that emotions matter. “Emotions guide our perceptions of the world.” They aren’t something to side aside but rather a key piece of who we are – who our students are—which we need to understand and engage. If we can identify the emotion that our students bring on a certain subject, we can better connect and empathize. We can move a negative emotion to a positive one by intentionally flip
ping them within our lesson. Flip complicated to simple through the soothing words you use to talk about boards. Flip the fear that comes with a finance lesson to laughter with an improv actor and a BINGO game. A good laugh can go a long way when talking about balance sheets.

How do I honor and harness the emotions that people tend to feel on this topic?


Finance Unlocked for Nonprofits (FUN)” developed by Washington Nonprofits. Uses an improv actor to turn finance fear into laughter.


Do You Have Math Anxiety?” Quiz published by the New York Times, August 24, 2015.


Click here or the image above for the Laugh worksheet.

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